12/18/2004

FAITH LIKE THE WATERBOY'S?

Have you ever watched the movie The Waterboy? The first time I watched this movie, I thought, hmm…,not bad, but not great. The thing is, the movie grows on you, and soon, you begin to recall bits and pieces, and want to watch it again, and again. This I have done. I have seen The Waterboy probably fifteen times, most of those with my daughter, and we still laugh at Adam Sandler’s peculiar ways as the main character, Bobbie Bouche (The Waterboy), no matter how long ago we memorized most of the lines.

There is one line in particular I find hilarious. Bobby Bouche is sitting in class as a professor is teaching about biology, I believe. When the professor asks the question, “Can anyone tell me why alligators are so ornery?”, Bobby shoots his hand into the air. The professor acknowledges Bobby, and gives him permission to answer.

Here is what Bobby has to say about alligators.

“Mama says, ‘alligators are ornery because they got all them teeth, and no toothbrush.’”

Well, as you can imagine, the answer isn’t correct according to the professor’s understanding, and the entire class bursts into laughter. So, he ridicules Bobby, and his Mama, and another student gives the “correct” answer.

The professor then asks, “Can anyone tell me where happiness comes from?” Immediately, Bobbie raises his hand, this time sure he knows the correct answer. The professor tries to ignore him, however, no other hands are raised, and so he says, “Alright….let’s hear what Mama has to say on the subject…”

Bobbie then answers, “Mama says, happiness is little rays of sunshine that come down to you when you’re feelin blue.”

You can imagine the collegiate reaction.

Obviously, Bobbie’s answer is incorrect, according to any dictionary or college text. Even a ten year old knows happiness doesn’t come from sunshine, and alligators are ornery for reasons other than the lack of a toothbrush. I admire the simplistic mind of Bobbie Bouche, though. I see in it a child’s faith, a faith misplaced in his mama, nevertheless, a faith that cannot be shaken by scholars.

Jesus once said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:6)

How many of us believe this? I mean, REALLY believe it? If I were to attend a seminary, and speak aloud about this one statement Jesus made, if I were to say, “Jesus said, ‘If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to a mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’, and it would obey you.”, what do you think the reaction of the professor would be?

Here is my take on what he would say. “Tom, Jesus wasn’t talking about physically moving a tree from the ground to the sea with just faith. What He meant was, you could move people within the confines of the church, you could accomplish things seemingly impossible amongst people, you could learn and understand doctrines, and apply them to your faith. If your faith was strong, then, your programs would have great effect, in fact, everything you did would impact people greatly.”

Not a bad answer, I might say. However, I don’t think it’s the right answer, either. It’s just the same answer the professor would have given to Bobbie Bouche.

Why do I say this? Why do I go against commonly accepted theology, which states that what Jesus meant wasn’t to be taken literally? Because Jesus, later in the gospels, told a fig tree that no one would ever eat of its fruit again. The next day, his disciples noticed the fig tree had withered from its roots upward. What more physical example could He have given for the statement He made about having faith like a mustard seed?

Yet in the face of this evidence, we see scholars tell us that things like this just can’t happen, and that we must believe Jesus' words in a figurative sense, lest we fail, and become discouraged.

Seems to me that taking the safe road, and agreeing with an answer that on the surface makes sense, reeks of a lack of faith. I would rather make the attempt, look like a fool for doing so and be discouraged, than stay in the shelter of man’s explanations. I would do that, because man’s explanations offer me no comfort for my failures, no peace for my angst, and no joy for my triumphs.

Faith is watered down when we begin to explain it, and that is what doctrine does, it explains faith, and thus waters it down. Bobbie Bouche may well have been wrong about alligators, and sunshine. Then again, who has read the mind of an alligator?

Most of the world believes that the moment Jesus disappeared from the scene, He ceased to exist. The world tells us as fact that when an infant loses a toy he was playing with, he believes the toy has ceased to exist. I wonder, how can we possibly know what an infant believes? And, how can we possibly know that Jesus only meant the statement about the mulberry tree figuratively?

In fact, is not our entire faith based on faith? We believe Jesus is alive, yet no one has ever seen Him, save for those two thousand years ago. We believe that He speaks to us, yet precious few have ever heard His physical voice. We believe that He rose from the dead, while science tells us this is absolutely impossible. We believe He fed five thousand people with a few loaves of bread, made blind men see, and cripples walk, all things that by ordinary "common" sense, are impossible.

Yet, when it comes to a statement like moving a mountain, or commanding a mulberry tree, we say, “That is to be taken figuratively.” Which of us knows this as fact, which of us can PROVE IT? We have heard the scholars speak, and their language reeks of the lack of faith. What will they tell us next? What will we believe?

Bobbie Bouche believed in simple things. Jesus spoke of simple things, but pick up any book on Christian faith, and you will quickly find how difficult this faith really is. You will be told numerous times that faith can’t move mountains, unless it is by a figurative meaning alone. On the list will go, until soon, only a genius will be able to understand what is written, so complicated and impossible we have made this trek with Jesus.

So, we buy more books, and read them. And what do we discover? That we need the scholars to continue to explain the mysteries of what Jesus really meant.

I think I will take Bobbie’s path, the path of simplicity, the path of faith, the path that isn’t ashamed to give the simple answer, even if the professor is going to ridicule me, because when I move the mulberry tree, what will he say then?

Probably that I have a demon.

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